Eastern FrontEastern Front/Severed Heaven

Hotel California, New Chester Road, Birkenhead
14th March 2008

Reviewed by Matthew Ford

Since Carcass split and Anathema mellowed, it's been a rare thing for Merseyside to play host to (musical) brutality, but two of the UK's finest unsigned metal bands - Eastern Front and Severed Heaven - went a long way to make up for a seemingly endless line of Beatles rip-offs. Birkenhead's recently refurbished Hotel California - home to the weekly Friday Rock Show - was the scene of some of the most challenging metal music you're likely to witness in the area.

The first band on stage was Ipswich-based Eastern Front (above), purveyors of 'War Torn Black Metal'. Suitably garbed in corpse paint, leather and spikes, there is no doubting the accuracy of that description, but there is much more to the band than just an image. Their studio recordings are characterised by thunderous drums, angular guitar riffs and throat-destroying vocals. In a live setting, the intensity is amplified tenfold. It's a pleasure to see vocalist Metzger so wilfully damaging his vocal chords for the sake of his art, and the acoustic passages serve as a stark contrast to the raw and bludgeoning heaviness which pervades almost all of their set. The songs are full of war-themed imagery, which only makes them all the more hard-hitting. Eastern Front were voted the best unsigned metal band last year by The Metal Underground (www.themetalunderground.co.uk), and it's easy to hear why with the epic 'Blood On Snow' ringing in my ears. The five-piece are about to commence work on their debut album, which, based on this performance, promises to put them up their with the big guns of black metal.

Severed HeavenIt wasn't long before Severed Heaven brought their brand of 'chuggy' death metal (with ample black metal influence, and some doom too) to the stage. An all-female band based in Leeds, they set out to tear down the notion that metal is for men only. The evidence that women can play it too - for anyone who really needed it - was clearly on display throughout the set. But don't get the wrong idea - it's not just about gender politics, by any means. The music is as menacing as metal comes and, along with the crushing riffs, rumbling bass and rapidfire drumming, the vocals are devastating. Frontwoman Satanica uses the 'death growl' style utilised by countless male vocalists and yet - with certain notable exceptions - it's still very unusual to hear a female vocalist using it, and especially with such genuine defiance and aplomb. Severed Heaven are simply a metal band, and they are a stunningly good one at that. The songs are epic and accomplished compositions; 'The Fallen Flesh Of Worthlessness (Purifying Reign)' ranges from a melancholic opening to the brutal chugging which is just made for headbanging. Meanwhile, the likes of 'Soul Desecration' and set closer 'Earth Decayed' are fine examples of variety in both tempo and dynamics. The band promise a hefty gigging schedule throughout 2008, and are currently performing new, as yet unavailable material, as well as their previously established fan favourites. On top of that, they're a tight live unit, so you definitely get your money's worth.

It's hard to see how Severed Heaven couldn't achieve anything they have the desire for and, as with Eastern Front, it's difficult to comprehend why they remain unsigned. However, if this gig is anything to go by, both bands will surely be signing recording contracts, and hopefully soon, as they deserve a wider audience. In the meantime, they need you at their shows. Both are gigging regularly around the north west, and it won't be long before they're back in Merseyside.

For more information on these bands, visit the following websites:


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